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Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC)

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The Pull of the Moon
The Pull of the Moon
by Julie Paul
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.75
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.98

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 21 2014
This review is from: The Pull of the Moon (Paperback)
"Danger: High Voltage" warns one reviewer when analyzing Julie Paul's new short story collection. Indeed, Paul edits her stories down to the grit; she wastes time with neither lyricism nor pleasantries and compels the reader to make deep connections with her characters by adopting a business-like tone that gets straight to the heart of the matter.

One story tells of the recently-separated father of an eleven-year-old who must balance the burden of parenting alone against the possibility of losing his daughter to his ex’s custody. Another describes the daily grind of a man unable to work following a traumatic accident. A chilling tale at the end of the collection recounts the death of a child in a backwards timeline.

The pointed conversations and character-driven observations of "The Pull of the Moon" may suggest foregone conclusions. But, in fact, the solutions to the characters' problems often remain out of reach to them while becoming more apparent to the reader. In "Squirrel People," for example, a husband in a failing marriage assumes something external can glue his family life back together and thus adopts a pet. His wife's negative reaction is blurred when Paul's voice takes over to summarize its outcome, a move that both reinforces disconnection between the characters and confirms what the audience knew all along.

Although Paul occasionally misses opportunities to adequately delve into her protagonists’ messy lives (as when a man translates grief over his recently-deceased wife into the death of a cat), her voice remains strong and satisfyingly weaves together obvious and deeply buried themes.

Jamie's Comfort Food
Jamie's Comfort Food
by Jamie Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.56
11 used & new from CDN$ 15.69

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 19 2014
This review is from: Jamie's Comfort Food (Hardcover)
Jamie Oliver knows good food. He has turned it into a meal in 15 minutes, made it affordable, brought it to school lunches and had it prepared by at-risk youth and. He has made it his life's work to reduce the risk of poor nutrition in two countries so it may seem odd that his latest (16th!) book boasts rich, calorie-laden recipes, many of which epitomize "slow food."

But, in "Jamie's Comfort Food," Oliver has a different aim: to showcase food that satisfies both emotionally and physically. He intends that readers prepare these recipes for either celebrating special occasions or working through tough times. With dishes like Best Bun Cha Bowl, Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich and Hummingbird Cake on the menu, readers will face a difficult choice in deciding what to try first. Anyone who has watched Jamie Oliver cook on TV knows his high-energy style of talking, a tone which shines through in the recipes. You can almost hear him narrate the story of the food as you read.

"Jamie's Comfort Food" delivers amazing photos in spades; at least one picture by award-winning photographer David ­Loftus accompanies each recipe. In fact, Oliver put an entire team of food experts to work on this book, which also includes a photo index with nutritional information and estimated preparation times.

Ultimately, this book does not teach dieting, time-saving techniques or vegetarianism. It simply speaks to Jamie Oliver’s belief in the importance of food. Good, simple, comforting food.

Why We Live Where We Live
Why We Live Where We Live
by Kira Vermond
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.37
27 used & new from CDN$ 4.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 18 2014
Humans adapt. Throughout history, we have cooperated to create successful methods of food production, sources of heat and light, methods of transportation, means of communication and mostly stable economies. In "Why We Live Where We Live," Kira Vermond considers human needs and surveys the process of city development based on these needs. She considers the reasons for living in dangerous places, touches on climate change and even poses the possibility of living elsewhere in the universe.

Each spread in the book covers a specific topic. The author sets the extensive, conversational text in columns with headings accompanied by Julie McLaughlin's lively illustrations. The duo tackles their fascinating subject with a refreshing lack of forced humour but, unfortunately, while the book valiantly attempts to answer its titular question, the result becomes overcomplicated.

The book presents a multitude of facts in seemingly random order; it jumps from from a discussion of the Earth’s uniqueness in our galaxy to different kinds of dwellings to the importance of food and water in just a few pages. It then proceeds through the topics of languages, speech and the role of family in determining an individual’s fate. Ultimately, the sheer amount of information gives "Why We Live Where We Live" the tone of a school textbook, which may alienate its intended elementary school audience.

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes
You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes
by Chris Hadfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.59
39 used & new from CDN$ 2.03

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 16 2014
Not surprisingly, astronauts on the International Space Station spend a lot of time looking out the window. As the station travels its 28,000 kms per hour, the ever-changing views inspire copious photography. Indeed, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became a social media star in 2013 by posting images of the Earth from space. In his introduction to "You Are Here," he writes that he took 45,000 photos during his five months on the station and, after returning, “promptly came across about a thousand that [he] wished [he]’d posted online.”

Hence this book, which features 150 stunning colour photos organized geographically. To provide the reader with the equivalent of a single orbit, the photos start in Africa and move to Europe, Asia, and Oceania before ending in North and South America. Photos include brief captions but Hadfield wisely lets them speak mostly for themselves. He cleverly mixes natural landscapes with cityscapes, serendipitous shots with those meticulously planned. He also reveals his fascination with “pareidolia,” the ability to perceive shapes in clouds or landforms: a bird-shaped lake in Oklahoma, an Australian beach that looks like the lower jaw from a skull and swirling rock formations in an Iranian desert that resemble Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

One could easily leaf through the 200 pages of "You Are Here" in an hour. Then again, the compelling images demand lingering attention so take time to value Hadfield's thoughtful presentation of our awe-inspiring planet.

Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home
Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home
by Marcus Samuelsson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.52
30 used & new from CDN$ 7.91

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 15 2014
From receiving two three-star New York Times ratings at Aquavit to winning "Top Chef Masters Season 2" to serving as guest chef for the first State Dinner of the Obama administration to opening Harlem's acclaimed Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson has impressed food lovers with culinary fusion for two decades. His new book, "Marcus off Duty," however, strays from fussier restaurant cuisine and focuses on home-cooked, casual fare.

Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and schooled in kitchens across Europe, Samuelsson's recipes meld the flavours of Africa, the Caribbean, Italy and America to produce exciting dishes like dill-spiced salmon, coconut-lime curried chicken, chocolate pie spiced with Indian garam masala and peanut noodles with slaw. Throughout the book, the author displays his passion for sharing this blend of culinary traditions, asserting that learning how to cook is the most liberating thing you can do. Many of his dishes have vegetables or grains as their main component instead of more expensive proteins and show how to use acidity and spice to make affordable food delicious.

In an interview, Samuelson quipped, "If you know how to cook, it’s really like dancing — once you have the basic rhythm you know where to go from that." Hence, each chapter of this unique cookbook includes a playlist, recommended music to get your mind and body into the culinary groove. Cooking becomes a natural vocabulary, then, and eating healthier smoothly follows suit.

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
by Thug Kitchen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.43
7 used & new from CDN$ 23.43

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 13 2014
3.5 stars...

In the midst of fall cookbooks featuring preserves, kale dishes and gluten-free desserts, it takes an unusual twist to stand out from the crowd. It takes easy, inexpensive and delicious recipes to prove that real-food eating does not equal an unattainable chore. The authors of "Thug Kitchen" know what it takes to upend the genre of food writing: a controversial, curse-filled cookbook that includes funny, practical and offensive instructions.

Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, a white couple from Hollywood, have shouldered accusations of cultural appropriation and racism over the word ‘thug’ and the associated profanity. Indeed, reading their book straight through will cause weariness from the excessive swearing. The language often overshadows the recipes, a shame since the authors offer solid, unpretentious cooking advice and a persuasive argument for embracing vegan dishes.

Recipes have Asian and Mexican influences and result in some exceptional food including black bean/cilantro dip, roasted chick pea and broccoli burritos and Sriracha cauliflower bites with peanut dipping sauce. If you can see through the fog of cheeky, gimmicky profanity, leafing through "Thug Kitchen" will help you kick the overly processed, nutritionally-vacant fast food habit and move into cooking fast, healthy food. After all, the authors do have a genuine mission: ditch the junk and care about what you eat.

Sarah Style
Sarah Style
by Sarah Richardson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.43
38 used & new from CDN$ 12.74

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 8 2014
This review is from: Sarah Style (Hardcover)
In her debut book, Canadian designer and HGTV personality Sarah Richardson offers design blueprints for a wide variety of spaces while encouraging individuals to bring their own personal touches to home decorating projects. "Sarah Style" represents all tastes, budgets and time periods and could certainly serve as a comprehensive resource for any design enthusiast.

The book reads as a room-by-room guide to design accompanied by bite-sized tips on adding visual impact to every part of the home. Richardson organizes rooms by chapter, allowing readers to leaf through different collections of entryways, living, dining and family rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and offices of various sizes and layouts. Curiously and unfortunately, she gives no attention to laundry or utility rooms.

A mix of favourite rooms from Richardson's TV shows and projects completed for private clients comprise the more than 100 rooms featured in "Sarah Style." The designer excels at balancing masculine with feminine, vintage with contemporary and patterned with neutral. She accents spaces with coloured objects like pillows, vases and artwork, which bring a room to life without overpowering it.

Richardson also considers small-space dwellers and gives lessons on creativity within tighter confines. She recommends making use of vertical height and finding furnishings for "double duty." When displaying a collection, she advocates for repetition and uniformity to achieve a curated as opposed to haphazard look.

Ultimately, "Sarah Style" gives solid decorating advice while encouraging personality. She strives to create magic spaces that exude both fun and functionality.

Mix It Up!
Mix It Up!
by Herve Tullet
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 12.84
63 used & new from CDN$ 5.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., Nov. 8 2014
This review is from: Mix It Up! (Hardcover)
Break out the finger paints! In "Mix It Up!", the reader turns a grey dot into a host of coloured ones by following direct, friendly instructions from the author: “With one finger take a little bit of the blue...and just touch the yellow. Rub it…gently…See?”

After some play, splotches of primary colours appear ripe for further blending. Tullet overexplains neither the mixing procedure nor the result and a new green blob looks exactly how one would imagine a finger painted blend of blue and yellow.

While its "touch screen" participatory nature may remind readers of an app, the book does not feel digital. Tullet’s paintings show luscious paint texture and, through shaking and tilting the book “so the colors squish together”, readers are treated to casual, fun colour mixing experiments.

Like "Press Here" (2011), "Mix It Up!" doesn't invite group participation; readers will enjoy it solo curled up on the couch or in the lap of a caregiver.

by Eliza Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.96
7 used & new from CDN$ 0.34

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 5 2014
This review is from: Wallflowers (Paperback)
Short fiction always take a back seat to the revered novel, an unfortunate fact but one that makes the search for a brilliant story so much more worthwhile. Certainly, such awe-inspiring tales grace bookstore shelves just waiting to be discovered and no collection proves this more than Eliza Robertson's debut, "Wallflowers."

While working on her MA, the Victoria writer earned a Man Booker Scholarship and the Curtis Brown Prize for best writer. She received the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for "We Walked on Water" and "L’Etranger" was a runner-up for the 2013 CBC Short Story Prize. Not surprisingly, Robertson includes these stories in her bold and diverse collection, which reads with both a youthful tone and a polish expected of life-long writers. The author displays a keen command of language, pushing and challenging her readers while disquieting them in the most satisfying ways.

"Where Have You Fallen, Have You Fallen?" includes eight short scenes that unfold in reverse chronological order, effectively building narrative tension. "The Art of Making One’s Self Agreeable: A Handbook for Ladies" reads like an etiquette manual to tell a story of violence and subterfuge within a marriage. "Ship’s Log" uses its titular form as imagined by a little boy to gradually reveal a story of loss and heartbreak.

The stories might differ in form and approach but they unite in human emotion: despair, hope, loss and, above all, heartbreak. And, by having to read in unexpected ways, the audience allows the emotional impact of the stories to creep in. Ultimately, everything comes together with a powerful, devastating and rewarding effect.

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal
Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal
by Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition Food Studies and Public Health Marion Nestle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.93
27 used & new from CDN$ 25.68

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Nov. 4 2014
The title "Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal" sounds vague but intriguing; one might expect an anthology of excerpts from cookbooks featured in literary works. Instead, the editors have gathered an assortment of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir and essays centred around foods and dining. After an introduction by Marion Nestle, editors present these literary pieces as courses of a fine meal, from starters to desserts.

Selections include James Beard opining about chicken jelly, M.F.K. Fisher waxing nostalgic about fried egg sandwiches, Nora Ephron discussing the comfort of potatoes and Maya Angelou recalling her grandmother's Caramel Cake. Sherman Alexie shares a poem on canned meals and Laurie Colwin remembers the repulsive dinners of her past.

Furthermore, samplings from historical cookbooks provide fascinating information such as advice on the preparation of various meats (think pigeons and rabbits) from the first cookbook ever written by an American in 1796. Notes from Irma S. Rombauer's first edition of "The Joy of Cooking," self-published in 1931, remind readers how much has changed in the areas of food availability, preparation and tastes.

Some might find this book a tedious slog, free of both humour and personality. But readers interested in food, literature and history who pick up "Books That Cook" will discover a worthwhile, entertaining read and maybe even an old recipe that requires resurrection.

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